Friday, 30 October 2009

Tree Climbing the Safe Way

Climbing trees is by nature a hazardous job, but certain common sense precautions can ensure that the risks are kept to a minimum.

Tree climbing work is subject to the Working at Height Regulations 2005 and certain rules have to be observed.

Risks and proper precautions

The first task is to carry out a risk assessment to determine whether climbing is the appropriate method of carrying out the work; it may be that in fact access can be made by using a hydraulic lift commonly known as a “Cherry Picker”; use of one of these also has certain regulations and requires a trained operator.

There are some main points that must be remembered and implemented.

· All the work to be carried out at height must be properly planned, organised and most importantly supervised.

· Equipment to be used must be suitable for the task and inspected before use to ensure that it is in good condition.

· All persons involved must be competent and have had appropriate training in all the tasks being carried out.

A proper risk assessment must be carried out for the site as a whole and should include the following points:

· There must be a written emergency plan.

· All risks must be assessed accurately including proximity to hazards e.g. power lines.

· All of the people involved on the worksite must be aware of the controls in place.

· All of the workforce must comply with the identified controls.

A minimum of two people must be present the whole time that tree climbing is in operation, one of which must be on the ground and has to be trained in aerial rescue and have all the necessary equipment available, so that a rescue can be performed without delay.

All people on the site must be able to communicate with each other easily and there should be a means of communication with responsible persons off site and with the Emergency Services, e.g. by mobile phone. In particularly noisy areas it is recommended that two way radios should be used.

All the people involved should have contributed to the risk assessment and job planning and must be free to raise points of concern and have the authority to stop work if they have concerns over safety issues that arise.

Pre-planning considerations

It is essential that in the case of emergency that the location is known, in the case of rural areas grid reference and the type of access available, in the case of urban areas street names and post codes are needed.

On all access points to the area where the climbing is taking place warning and prohibition signs conforming to the Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, indicating a hazardous work site with unauthorised access prohibited must be displayed. In certain areas where public access is likely the use of barrier tape, barriers or extra personnel to act as safety marshals may be required.

Fitness is important, climbing and then working may put personnel under unusual skeletal and muscular strain, and so it is essential to warm up and stretch before commencing the climb. Where possible share the climbing work between two or more climbers to give adequate rest periods. In hot weather it may be necessary to increase the number of breaks and also look at different climbing techniques.

Climbers also have to be aware of the different characteristics of tree species and the effect on the methods to be used. Particular care must be taken to assess the structure and condition of the tree and look particularly for any evidence of decay and damage.


For work off ground the helmet should be compliant to BS EN 12492 with both crown and side protection, the Arborsafe TH/1 helmet in our Granite Workwear range is ideal for this. Eye protection should comply with BS EN 166 for example the Bolle and Peltor ranges on the Granite Workwear site in the Safety Glasses section. Hearing protection should comply with BS EN 352. Suitable gloves should be worn depending on the conditions.

Of course it is also essential to have protective clothing to protect from chainsaw cuts. We have a range of products from SIP Protection to suit all needs; particularly the newer developments like the Freedom Trouser 1SRN that offer excellent protection particularly round the back of the lower leg but with lighter weight to give improved flexibility for climbing and reduce the problems of heat exhaustion.

Medical supplies

A first aid kit should always be available, but in addition to basic kit, which complies with regulations but is as it says BASIC; we recommend that each operative should have in their possession a pouch of Celox, there should also be one of these stored in the vehicle.

Celox is a British product and is a haemostatic granule which when poured into a bleeding wound, links to the red blood cells promoting rapid coagulation. In controlled tests, it was found to stop most bleeding within 30 seconds and to stop severe arterial bleeding in minutes. The sachet can be opened one handed so that the granules can be self administered.

In battlefield trials Celox achieved a 100% survival rate. It works in hypothermic conditions and also clots blood containing thinning agents such as Heparin and Warfarin. Celox does not generate heat and wont burn the patient or first aider. It is safe to use in all parts of the body including head and neck wounds. Simply pour granules into the wound and apply pressure. No specific training is needed and this will save lives.

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